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Firefighters Mark Simpson and Gary Newing retiring after more than 30 years each at Sheerness fire station in High Street

By Emma Grove

Two long-serving Island firemen are retiring after serving a combined total of more than 60 years.

Part-time crew manager Mark Simpson and firefighter Gary Newing have been based at Sheerness station for the past three decades.

As a youngster Mr Simpson was a St John Ambulance volunteer. After doing some fire safety training, he decided to sign up to the fire service in 1985, and has spent the past 10 years as Sheerness crew manager.

L-R Firefighter Gary Newing, area manager Steve Jeffery and crew manager Mark Simpson
L-R Firefighter Gary Newing, area manager Steve Jeffery and crew manager Mark Simpson

The 45-year-old civil servant recalls one of the biggest fires was at Kemsley Paper Mill many years ago, when more than 50 fire engines had to tackle the blaze, which was one of the biggest in Kent since the war.

Halfway resident Mr Simpson said: “Firefighter Newing and myself are the last of our original crew. It’s time for the new generation to take over.

“I have given a combined total of 35-year service to the public, so I would like to try something new with different challenges.

“It may also be nice for my family to know I will be staying at the dinner table and not running out of the house or coming home at all hours.”

His last day will be at the end of the month, while Mr Newing signed off on Monday.

The dad of two joined the fire service in 1980 after seeing a recruitment advert.

The 55-year-old, also from Halfway, remembers the mill fire, too, as well as another incident when they managed to free a man trapped in a bakery cutting machine without him losing any of his limbs.

Mr Newing said he never wanted to go full-time but enjoyed the role as something different to his normal job as a joiner at Pilkington Automotive in Queenborough, where he will carry on working.

“It’s very challenging sometimes and you can find yourself in difficult situations,” he said.

“But everybody works as a team, and it’s putting something back into the community. I will miss the camaraderie.”

He also thanked his wife, Judith and sons, Christopher and Martin, for their support over the years.

The pair were presented with their Certificates of Service by area manager Steve Jeffery at the station in High Street, Sheerness, last Tuesday.

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